According to Wikipedia's article on Democracy Index, the United States ranks 21st with the lowest indicators being "Functioning of government" and "Political participation".

I am wondering why such a relatively low score in the context of universal suffrage (virtually anyone who is more than 18 years old can vote and registration may be accomplished when obtaining a driver's license).

Question: Why does the US have such a low score for the "Political participation" factor in the Democracy index?

  • As a side note, it seems that the aforementioned indicators changed US category from "Full democracy" to "Flawed democracy".
    – Alexei
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 7:13
  • 9
    I am amazed that the US got 9.17 for pluralism with just 2 effective parties
    – Federico
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 7:58
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    While the answer from JamesK has the specific details of the ranking you're looking at, stories like this one in the Guardian probably contribute to some of those lower scores. theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/19/…
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


The Economist has 60 indicators each of which is scored on a three point scale (0,0.5 or 1) the total is then calculated. For the participation section the following indicators are used:

  1. Voter participation/turn-out for national elections.

  2. Do ethnic, religious and other minorities have a reasonable degree of autonomy and voice in the political process?

  3. Women in parliament.

  4. Extent of political participation. Membership of political parties and political non-governmental organisations.

  5. Citizens’ engagement with politics, from World Values Survey

  6. The preparedness of population to take part in lawful demonstrations, from World Values Survey

  7. Adult literacy.

  8. Extent to which adult population shows an interest in and follows politics in the news, from World Values Survey

  9. The authorities make a serious effort to promote political participation.

(full details at Democracy index 2017

The USA scores well for literacy and membership of political parties, but is still at 19% for women in the House, and doesn't score full points on indices such as percentage interest in news media and turn-out at elections.

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    Yes, that explains it. Ref. "percentage interest in news media" - does this mean that people are not that interested in reading politics related articles or something else?
    – Alexei
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 10:44
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    You score 1 if in the World Values Survey, more than 50% of the population gets daily news. It may be that more Americans use social media for news, and this has pushed down the %age who read a daily newspaper or watch the news every day
    – James K
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 11:06
  • Out of curiosity, how is question 27 scored for states where voting is mandatory? On paper that would show very good turnout, even though it's a negative in terms of voting significance of concerned/informed citizens. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 16:19
  • The answer is given in the linked document. For Q 27 "If voting is obligatory, score 0. Score 0 if scores for questions 1 or 2 is 0." (Q 1 and 2 are "Are elections free" and "Are they fair") So Australia, Belgium and other states with mandatory voting score 0 for Q 27)
    – James K
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 16:43

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